Think Tank: Morocco strengthens its air force to guarantee regional stability | MoroccoLatestNews French

The strengthening of the Royal Air Armed Forces in terms of the acquisition of new weapons and technologies is partly explained by economic reasons, but above all strategic, the nature of which is defensive and linked to the maintenance of stability and military balance in the region, noted the latest Policy paper from the Think Tank Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis.

Morocco has increased the deterrent capability of its armed forces, particularly the air force, following various threats posed by a number of actors, researcher Francesco Macci noted in his recent Policy paper.

According to the latter, Morocco is tending to expand its fleet of drones for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and “potential combat” purposes, while developing its own capabilities to produce similar systems. Fighter aircraft are also undergoing a process of modernization and enlargement with deterrence as the main objective.

The regional context surrounding Morocco is characterized by a number of crises, in addition to the Kingdom’s internal challenges, including the Sahara conflict, the civil war in Libya, the security and military instability in Mali, with the rise of terrorist threats and the change of external actors, explains the researcher. He believes that the military expenditures of neighboring countries have prompted the Kingdom to continue improving its armed forces.

For Francesco Macci, the Kingdom can play an important role in the development of a new Middle East. This would be possible thanks to Morocco’s long-standing relationship with the United States and Israel and its peaceful diplomatic approach, which has allowed it to strengthen its ties with Israel while maintaining its decades-old position regarding the Palestinian cause.

In addition, the strengthening of Morocco’s military capabilities is also linked to the United States’ foreign military sales policy, which aims to improve national security by strengthening the capabilities of allies. The two countries work together to support each other in matters of national security and engage in joint military training, with other countries, such as the African Lion.

That said, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that the United States is Morocco’s main arms supplier, accounting for 76% of its total arms imports during the period 2017- 2021. According to the same source, the United States is the only country from which Morocco has acquired weapons annually since 2009. In addition, Morocco acquired in 2021 weapons for a total value of 203 million USD on a total expenditure of 225 million USD.

Following clearance from the US State Department in 2019, Morocco will most likely acquire 25 F-16C/D Block 72 jet fighters, as well as the upgrade of 23 F-16s it currently operates to the new F-16V configuration. The same department also approved the sale of ammunition for F-16 for an amount of approximately 209 million USD.

In July 2021, the American company Raytheon Technologies was awarded the supply to Morocco of an indefinite number of F-100 installation engines intended for the F-16, while in 2020 Morocco ordered 24 helicopters from attack AH-64E Apache to the American company Boeing, under a contract of 4.25 billion USD. Note that these deliveries should not begin until 2024.

In addition to the United States, the Kingdom has signed a military cooperation agreement with Israel, allowing it to acquire the Barak MX air and missile defense system manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In 2020, Morocco received three Heron drones ordered six years earlier, and Harop prowler ammunition, also known as “kamikaze drones”.

According to the Policy paper, Morocco ordered in July 2022 a fleet of H135 helicopters from the French company Airbus which should be used for training missions. Other reports also indicate that the Kingdom has acquired VL MICA defense systems as part of the 192 million euro agreement signed in 2020 with the French company MBDA.

On the other hand, Morocco was able to strengthen its drone capabilities thanks to the acquisition of Bayraktar TB2 from the Turkish company Baykar, 13 UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) were delivered in September 2021. It also acquired in 2019 the Bukovel-AD drone detection and jamming system from Ukraine and the Ground Master 400 radar for long-range drone detection from the French company Thales.

To this end, the researcher explains that by analyzing the type of armament, Morocco aims to use its military capabilities for defense and deterrence purposes to maintain military stability in the region, in addition to the regional supremacy defined in the 2017 five-year plan.

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